Tag Archive: Shakespeare


As You Like It – William Shakespeare

as you like itTitle: As You Like It

Author: William Shakespeare

Date Finished: 31/01/14

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club 

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

I always try to read the play before seeing the performance when it comes to Shakespeare, and as I’m seeing As You Like It at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol in March, I thought I’d better read it now.  I enjoyed it, even though I did get slightly confused as I also went to see our school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream this week.

The plot is of course very silly and farcical and unrealistic but it’s meant to be this way – surely no-one now or in the 1600s would have really believed that a boy dressed up as a girl who was pretending to be a boy in minimal disguise would really fool anyone!  I can’t say I loved this plot quite as much as some of the other Shakespeare I’ve read but it was still enjoyable.

The characters are (for once) not too confusing to follow, apart from there being two Jaques (I only realised about 3/4 of the way through!) and I think all of the characters will really be brought to life for me when I see the play.  Rosalind is very memorable, if a bit silly but then who isn’t silly in Shakespeare’s comedies?  Again, the characters were good but didn’t rival my favourite characters in Much Ado About Nothing (my favourite Shakespeare so far)!

It was nice to have a French setting and the language was (unsurprisingly) amazing and I didn’t struggle to follow the story really.  As usual, I had my ladybird children’s, 60 page ‘Story from Shakespeare’ version alongside me just to read over after I’d read a few scenes to make sure I hadn’t missed any important details.  I recommend this play as it’s a nice short read and I am very much looking forward to seeing it performed next month.

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Two GentlemenTitle: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Author: William Shakespeare

Date Finished: 7/04/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club 

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

This is the second of Shakespeare’s plays that I have read recently, and it is for the same reason as the first (Richard III) – in Bristol there is a theatre called ‘The Tobacco Factory’ and it hosts a couple of Shakespeare plays every year, which me and my family always go and see.  They are put on spectacularly well and the theatre is small, in the round, usually with amazing live music so you can see why we like going so much.  Anyway, I have already seen Richard III, which was completely brilliant and in a few weeks I will be seeing The Two Gentlemen of Verona, hence the reading of it now.

I didn’t know anything about the story before I started reading it, apart from it’s a comedy, so I kept checking sparknotes after every couple of scenes to check I had understood everything (on the whole I had, which was encouraging).  I am proud of myself for persevering with the Shakespearean language and not letting this relatively short play drag out too long, which can easily happen.

The plot is really good in this play and I was genuinely surprised at the different twists and turns that came along, especially when Julia dressed up as a boy and the business with the outlaws.  Obviously, the plot follows the usual format of a Shakespearean comedy but this felt more like a familiar friend than a boring repetition.  Maybe this is also because I haven’t actually read a comedy since January 2012 (Much Ado About Nothing) anyway.

There are several main characters a few minor characters and that’s about it in this play, which is quite nice really.  There are the Two Gentlemen – Proteus and Valentine and their respective love interests – Julia and Silvia.  I thought they were all reasonably well developed, if a bit too forgiving at the end!

The setting of Verona/Milan doesn’t actually feature that much, but the language of Shakespeare in this play is a perfect balance between poetic and emotive and also easy to understand.  I didn’t miss the finer details like I suspect I may have done slightly with Richard III, however, this could also be due to a less complex plot and a shorter play duration too.

Overall, this is a nice comedy and I would recommend it, but there is a reason why it is not so well known as other comedies and I don’t think it is going to change anyone’s life after reading it!

February Wrap-Up & March Plans

Well February is always a month that goes quickly, as obviously there are only 28 days, and this year that was the case too.  I had an absolutely amazing week in Uganda – I truly fell in love with Africa and with Uganda especially.  The music, the scenery and above all the people just made it the best week of my life.  I won’t bore you with loads of details but basically, my Dad set up a link with his school to a school near Masindi about 6/7 years ago and this year he went back with me, my sister, two students from his school and two teachers.  We saw all the amazing developments the link has made possible for the school in Uganda and we were hosted magnificently well.  We spent the second last day on a river cruise along the Nile to Victoria Falls, which was obviously mind-blowing.  We even saw elephants in the wild!
Unfortunately, while I was in Uganda there was such intermittent power and basically no alone time, so I barely read at all.  Since I came back, I managed to read a bit but my time was taken up with mounds of coursework!

Here’s what I read in February 2013:

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Richard III – William Shakespeare

I know this is a bit rubbish as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is fewer books than I read in January, but I do think I had good excuses!  My aim of 1200 pages a month was not fulfilled as I read only 637 pages.
I definitely did not keep up my 30 minutes reading a day, although I did read at least for a few minutes every day, even in Uganda when it was like midnight and I knew I had to get up at about 6!
I did take Big Bang with me to Uganda, but I have not read at least one science book every two months so I need to read 2 between March and April ideally!
I definitely fulfilled my at least one classic a month target as both the books I read were classics!
Lastly, I try to stay an active blogger and this was definitely a fail for February – I haven’t been that good at posting or commenting, but I hope I will improve in March.

I am not too disappointed as I did read 2 books and The Host (which I am reading now) is very long anyway.

Challenge Progress in February 2013:

The Classics Club :  12/60 books read  (2 this month: Pride and Prejudice and Richard III )

I reviewed my Classics Club list and have added a few alternatives as I am now a year into my list – details here!

I hope there may be some new challenges in 2013 that fit in with my reading plans for this year; if not maybe I will create my own!

Currently In Progress:

At the moment, I am rereading The Host and actually really enjoying it (I know it may not seem like my kind of book, but it’s actually really good!) I was hoping to finish it in February, then at the beginning of March but it is very long and may take a bit longer than anticipated!

March Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are Big Bang – Simon Singh, Le Petit Nicholas and 1984.  I need to read Big Bang and I would love to get to 1984 and Le Petit Nicholas as well, but this may not be possible!

Challenges:  If I do get to 1984, then it will count towards the classics club.

I really hope to find some more reading time in March – hopefully the Easter holidays will give me a few more hours in the day to play with…but with uni open days and exams looming, it may get worse before it gets better!!

Richard III – William Shakespeare

Richard IIITitle: Richard III

Author: William Shakespeare

Date Finished: 23/02/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club 

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Finishing and enjoying this book has made me feel rather proud of myself!  From what I’ve heard, it is quite a long Shakespeare, it is a history (my first) and it is one that I had absolutely no idea of the story of before.  Therefore, I am proud because it is the first Shakespeare I’ve ever read without knowing the story beforehand.  I was kind of apprehensive, as I thought I wouldn’t be able to understand the language etc but I am really happy with this read – looking forward to seeing the performance in March now.

The plot in Richard III is quite exaggerated from the historically accurate version, but it is gripping and shocking nevertheless.  Obviously, with it being a Shakespeare drama, everything is quite over the top and I don’t think I have ever read about more murders within 100 pages in my life!  I read the first half of this book over the time I was in Uganda, which is quite impressive too, as I didn’t really have much time for reading – a bit on the plane and then a page or two in the evenings.  The plot wasn’t too hard to follow, but I didn’t get bogged down with trying to understand every little thing – when I see the play, I will really get everything.

The characters are obviously quite numerous and confusing, with this being a history.  There are lots of different Lords, Dukes etc etc and I spent a lot of the time thinking ‘Richmond’ was Henry VII’s actual name and not where he was earl of!  Never mind – it doesn’t really matter if I make small mistakes here and there!  Richard was obviously very evil and manipulative, but it did seem a little too easy for him to manipulate some characters in the story, most notably Anne!

The language of Shakespeare is always challenging, but not too bad (as I have now realised).  I enjoy the drama format with speech and stage directions although sometimes it feels a bit unnatural to have the descriptive passages verbalised as speech by a character.
The setting of England isn’t really described as much as some of the other plays I have read/seen – Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in particular seem to focus more heavily on the scene around them, but this wasn’t a problem.

Overall, I can’t say that I loved this story, however I definitely did enjoy it and I am very much looking forward to seeing it in Bristol in a few weeks times.  Has anyone else read/seen this play?

January Wrap-Up & February Plans

I say this every month without fail, but January 2013 has flown by!  It was Christmas and suddenly it’s now February!  Well anyway, January was quite a busy month for me, as I had 5 exams which (mostly) went well thank goodness…I get the results in March!  Also, there was all sorts of crazy weather including a large dumping of snow which shut school…except I had to go in anyway for an exam! :O  I’m sure February will prove to be just as crazy and busy, as I am off to Uganda for 8 days next Sunday!  It is going to be an amazing and eye-opening experience for definite but also a 9 hour plane journey seems like prime reading time!

Here’s what I read in January 2013:

Villette – Charlotte Brontë

The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is more than I read in December, which is good.  My aim of 1200 pages a month was fulfilled as I read 1340 pages.
For the first 3 weeks of January I had no problems keeping up my 30 minutes reading a day, despite my exams, but as soon as I started Pride and Prejudice, I couldn’t maintain this – I just can’t really get into it!
I need to read a science book next month to keep up with my target of at least one science book every two months.
I definitely fulfilled my at least one classic a month target as I read two – The Hobbit and Villette.
Lastly, I try to stay an active blogger and I have worked on this – commenting more and when not commenting still reading posts.  I also came across quite a few new blogs due to The Classics Club Readathon.

So as you can see, I have met pretty much all of my targets for January 2013, so hopefully I can keep it up in February.

Challenge Progress in January 2013:

The Classics Club :  10/60 books read  (2 this month: Villette & The Hobbit )

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 6/15 (Villette) (This challenge has been discontinued but it does no harm to keep track anyway!)

I have some more classics to add to my Classics Club list and I really need to do this before Uganda – I hope I have time!

Currently In Progress:

At the moment, I am reading Pride and Prejudice but it is taking me FOR EVER!  I think this is because I haven’t really had the time to dedicate to it that it deserves and the days have just slipped by.  I am really hoping to finish it before Uganda.

February Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are Middlemarch still, Richard III and Le Petit Nicholas.  I am leaving Middlemarch, but I am taking Richard III, The Host and Big Bang (Simon Singh) to Uganda with me so I have some varied reading.

Challenges:  When I do my Classics Club review, Richard III will count towards that and the next classic I plan for after that will probably be 1984 (a re-read).

Yes my reading has been a bit sparse over the last week or so, but the rest of January was really good for me, especially as I loved The Hobbit so much.  I hope you all discover some new favourites in February like I did in January. 🙂

October Wrap-Up and November Plans

Wow it is actually ridiculous how quickly these months are going by; how is it November already?  Anyway October was good fun for me – we had our school charity RAG week and a sixth form social (I think I am still recovering even now!) and this week’s holiday was definitely needed.

October was a pretty good reading month for me considering how poor September was!

Here’s what I read in October 2012:

Fermat’s Last Theorem – Simon Singh

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest – Stieg Larsson

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is 2 more than I read in September!  It’s also a good variety as it’s one non fiction, one fiction and one classic.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in October by Macbeth.

Challenge Progress in October 2012:

The Classics Club :  8/60 books read  (Macbeth)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  4/6 books read  (None this month)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 6/15 (Macbeth)

Need to read Middlemarch and Villette for The Victorian Challenge but I doubt I will manage both – Middlemarch beat me when I tried at the beginning of September.

Currently In Progress:

Currently in progress is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which I thought would be a bit of a struggle but so far I am really enjoying it and keeping on top if it.  Also I am reading E=mc² by David Bodanis as my current science book; his prose is not quite as good as Simon Singh’s so far.

November Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are The Visible World by Mark Slouka, Middlemarch still and Villette by Charlotte Brontë!  Cloud Atlas is pretty big and I am reading two books at the moment so I can’t see myself getting much past The Visible World after them.

Challenges:  If I do get round to Middlemarch or Villette, they would both count towards all 3 challenges.

September was such a dismal reading month for me that I didn’t even bother with a monthly wrap-up so I am glad that I am out of my reading rut.  I am just cautious of pushing myself back into it by forcing Middlemarch upon myself again.  It just seems too big and obscure (I don’t know anything about it and people don’t seem to talk about Eliot as much as say Dickens or Austen) for my life at the moment – maybe it will be something I adore but only if I get time to appreciate it properly; a holiday read next year?  Who knows but I don’t want to completely discard it yet as so many people love it.  Don’t judge a book by its cover size?

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

Title: Macbeth

Author: William Shakespeare

Date Finished: 30/10/12

Re-Read? : Second time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club & The Literary Classics

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Ah it feels so nice to be reading Shakespeare again.  Before this I had only read one play – Much Ado About Nothing (which I love) – last January and before that, I had only studied Macbeth at school in 2010.  I enjoyed Macbeth even more than when we read it in school and I can’t wait to get onto my next Shakespeare.

On my Classics Club list, there are (currently) 11 Shakespeare plays.  This is probably going to change soon as I am reshuffle my list after I have read 12 books (20% of the list) to reflect new books I have acquired/heard about since I came up with the original list.  But anyway, I am still looking forward to my next Shakespeare, which will probably be Romeo and Juliet.

The plot in Macbeth is definitely interesting.  The way events happen that you really don’t expect is sometimes spooky and often shocking.  Despite the fact that I studied it a couple of years ago, I still couldn’t remember more than the basic storyline, so it was good to see what was happening alongside the main events.  I think the trickery of the witches is very clever, especially the way their prophecies seem so ridiculous that Macbeth will always be safe but they come true in a very unexpected and sneaky way.

The characters were what I focussed on when I studied Macbeth, especially Lady Macbeth herself.  I wrote an essay titled ‘Lady Macbeth – “Fiend-like Queen”, how far do you agree?‘.  All my little highlightings and annotations are still in my copy which was nice and reminded me of some of the quotes I used.  Aside from Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Duncan and Macduff, the characters in Macbeth aren’t particularly memorable and I sometimes got confused between all the lords/generals/noblemen etc.  However, Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be performed so maybe I wouldn’t have got confused if I were watching it.

The setting in old Scotland is miserable and dreary, as intended and all the castles and battles just add to the quite ferocious nature of the story – there is so much murder involved.  Shakespeare’s language was not actually too difficult for me, which I found quite surprising, as many people struggle with it and I know when I have been to see Shakespeare I sometimes lose the meaning whilst trying to understand the words, if you know what I mean.  This was no problem so that’s encouraging and means I will read more Shakespeare in the future.  I have just ordered a copy of Richard III because I am going to see it next year.  I am also going to see Two Gentlemen of Verona which should be great.

Overall I would recommend Macbeth as a good Shakespeare to start out with as it’s not too complex or long but is a great story nevertheless.  I would definitely go and see it in the theatre if it was on near me.  A secure 4/5 but I can’t I see myself reading it for a third time for quite a while.

Title: Fermat’s Last Theorem

Author: Simon Singh

Date Finished: 21/10/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 5/5 – absolutely brilliant

This is the first major science book I have read and I really enjoyed it.  Now that I’ve started my a-levels and have started to think about university, a broad knowledge of the subjects that interest me is becoming expected.  This means (for me) reading around maths and chemistry and this book is almost mandatory for anyone interested in maths to read.  Indeed, I read somewhere ‘you would stand out only by not reading this book’!

However, do not be fooled…you do not need any mathematical background to enjoy this book.  Obviously if maths is abhorrent to you, it may not be the best story to go for, but anyone who has basic levels of mathematics won’t struggle at all, as anything complex (such as elliptic curves or modular forms!) is either explained very clearly so ‘normal’ people can understand, available in an appendix at the end for ‘mathsy’ people (a-level ish standard) to have a look at, or just ignored completely, as we don’t need to be able to comprehend the mathematics to understand the story.

The length of the book was perfect – enough to be a decent read but nothing was laboured over and at the end I felt like I had a really solid overview of the history of Fermat’s Last Theorem and also of number theory in general.  There were interesting chapters on ancient mathematicians such as Pythagoras and some of the attempted proofs of the theorem that I had no idea about.  It is even more compelling to read because you know everything is true!

Singh’s prose is exemplary: he tells a brilliant story and makes complex mathematical concepts easy to understand.  He is very skilled.  It is often the case that authors may possess one of these two important traits and brilliant stories are ruined by confusing calculations or very well-explained concepts are immersed in an awfully dull story.  Singh manages to be the best of both worlds. I will be reading another of his books, Big Bang, soon and I have already ordered another, The Code Book.  If you are interested in some not-too-heavy sciencey-reading, then Simon Singh is definitely a really good place to start.

I don’t think I will re-read this book particularly soon, despite enjoying it so much as there is not the same ‘re-experience’ of characters and a deep plot that you get with a novel.  Next up for normal reading is Macbeth by Shakespeare and I think after that I might start my next science book, E=mc² by David Bodanis.  I have still got The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson on the go as well, and I am really enjoying that too.

August Wrap-Up and September Plans

Hello everyone…I can’t believe it’s September! 2012 seems to be flying by.  I like September because starting back at school is quite exciting and it’s my birthday!  Also, the Autumnal weather is a  favourite of mine.  Anyway, in August I really enjoyed the Olympics, a holiday to Majorca and brilliant results.  It has been great but I am ready to go back to school and have some structure returned to my life!

August was a great reading month for me, but not quite as good as last year…there was just too much going on!

Here’s what I read in August 2012:

The Crow Road – Iain Banks

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Harry Potter à L’École des Sorciers – J.K. Rowling

Dracula – Bram Stoker

This is great as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This was the same number as I read in July.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in August by Dracula.

Challenge Progress in August 2012:

The Classics Club :  7/60 books read  (Dracula)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  4/6 books read  (Dracula)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 4/15 (Dracula)

Really good progress in all the challenges this year.

Currently In Progress:

Currently in progress (as of yesterday) is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  I read one page late last night and then put it down as I was exhausted…I just hope this isn’t an indication of how I will respond to all 800+ pages of it!

September Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ NestMacbeth, and Cloud Atlas.  Middlemarch is so vast that I very much doubt I read anything else this month…and maybe next too!

Challenges:  Middlemarch will count for all 3 and Macbeth will count for 2 challenges.

Just though I would mention that it has been 6 months since I started blogging!  That is shocking – I still feel very much like a newbie and I would just like to say thank you to all subscribers/readers/commenters for your insight, support and welcome; you have all made book-blogging a very enjoyable experience for me, which is what I hoped for when I started out back at the start of March.  Thank you all 🙂

Every week, The Broke and The Bookish poses a category for book bloggers to post their ‘Top Ten’ in that week’

This week is a free week for us to decide on a category for ourselves.  I saw that Jillian had picked the top 10 books she was looking forward to reading from The Classics Club and I thought this was a great idea, so I have ‘borrowed’ it!

For my full Classics Club list and details about the challenge, click here.

  1. Villette – Charlotte Brontë:  I am most looking forward to this because everything I’ve heard about it suggests I will love it – I loved Jane Eyre, really enjoyed Wuthering Heights and people have said it’s ‘full of French’ which is a language that I love!
  2. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens:  I have been looking forward to re-reading this for a long time, as I didn’t really get it the first time (I was too young).  On top of that, I bought a stunning edition the other day (a new Penguin English Library edition!) so I can’t wait to get into it.
  3. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee:  This is (possibly) my favourite book of all time so I can’t wait to read it again and see if I enjoy it even more (or maybe less).
  4. King Lear – William Shakespeare:  I saw this play at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol in February and it was absolutely amazing.  I really loved reading Much Ado About Nothing, so I am anticipating my next dose of Shakespeare.
  5.  The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins:  I don’t seem to have read a negative word about Collins recently and it’s so exciting to get into a new author – especially if there is a great mystery to look forward to!
  6. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons:  Again, I am going by recommendation – I have heard this book is hilarious.  It is not too long, hopefully not too hard to read and I have a feeling it will be a pleasure to read.
  7. Middlemarch – George Eliot:  I am just as scared of reading this mammoth volume as I am excited!  It is so long I might have to stagger reading it through the summer, although I did plan to do that with David Copperfield and loved it so much I just powered through!  I am excited about getting into a new author and considering it is number 1 on Daily Telegraph’s list of ‘100 novels everyone should read’, I have great expectations for it (see what I did there?!).
  8. Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens :  As I’ve already mentioned, I loved David Copperfield so can’t wait to get stuck into another massive Dickens!  This one is meant to be quite funny too (I think?) so I should enjoy it.
  9. Suite Française – Irène Némirovsky:  This book is all about Nazi occupied France and I think I’ll find it really interesting.  Also, I bought a lovely edition (Vintage 21) in Vienna so it looks amazing on my shelf!
  10. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen:   I recently read Emma and really enjoyed it, so I am looking forward to getting stuck into some more Austen – I have bought Pride and Prejudice and plan to read it next Christmastime.  Also, I will finally be able to say I have read this iconic book!